How To Avoid Upwork Low Performer Suspension

Upwork started suspending low performing freelancers indefinitely. This article will give you tips on how to avoid Upwork low performer suspension.

Upwork, the largest online marketplace for freelance jobs receives a vast number of new freelancers every day. Their numbers are far greater than the amount of new gigs clients are posting. And owing to that, an average number of bids per job for the average freelancer has dramatically increased since last summer. In a vain attempt to regain the market equilibrium, the management pursued this controversial measure. The platform algorithm will suspend anyone struggling to land jobs on it.

Recently I have seen a lot of freelancers from various groups reporting their suspension from the platform. However, in the majority of such reports those affected freelancers claimed their focus is now elsewhere. Often, that may be their long-term clients they work with outside the platform. Many freelancers are moving on to those category-specific platforms such as 99designs or Toptal, neglecting Upwork.

Freelancers affected by this change

So who exactly is affected the most by this measure? Freelancers who perform well outside Upwork will often use it to try their luck with business development. The more successful they are, the busier they become, and have little time to delve deeper into proposal writing. So, they usually end up “canning” a single cover letter – often filled with genuine samples and references. Upwork management is not a fan of this. Canned proposals will lower your odds to getting jobs on any platform. Even if you’re a proven expert in your field with a shiny portfolio, never miss sharing it with your potential clients.

With plenty of bids and little to no landed jobs, your profile is set for an indefinite suspension. The good news is that this is not a permanent ban.  Upwork claims they are just providing you with more time to focus on learning and improving your skills. In an ideal scenario, you will learn new stuff and they will reward you with suspension removal.

However, this decision is not something to admire. Even successful freelancers who get hired often are at risk, owing to the cruel nature of freelancing demonstrated in its seasonality. We all know about the dead months in our business. Hit a bump in the road, go a couple of months bidding unsuccessfully and you’re in danger.

How do you know whether you’re in danger?

The exact time frame they use in calculating your “eligibility” for suspension is a mystery. As already stated before regarding many things such as the infamous Job Success Score algorithm, Upwork “will not reveal the exact calculation in order to prevent fraud”. (They should consider trademarking that sentence.) Transparency is not their highest priority, anyway. So, what is up to you is the need to reconsider your bidding strategies and work towards minimizing any risks associated with this new measure. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe.

Step forward to further specialization

To prove that you’re a real expert in your area, you should go deeper into a specific focus within your industry. For example, if you are a writer in the bicycle niche, focus more precisely on mountain bike topics, or bike suspensions topics, or whatever you like the most about it. Or, if you’re a JavaScript developer choose a framework you like to work with the most and seek only those jobs looking for Web development using that specific framework.

Such a deep field specialization will make you a valuable catch among the talent hunters within your industry, opening many doors outside the platform. You can then move towards branding yourself online.


How To Avoid Upwork Low Performer Suspension

Bid less, care more!

If you’re following our first recommendation, you will likely start spending more proposals than before. But if your monthly connect cycle rollover date is near and you still have excessive amounts of connects, don’t rush to spend them all on jobs you’re not really keen on working, “just to try out luck with it”. What looked like gambling before now really is, as if your “bets” don’t result in wins, you will be temporarily barred from future bidding.

You have 60 connects every month, which means you generally have one proposal slot for every day of the month. For some it would seem that’s not enough. However, Upwork RFP’s on average receive 30 or more proposals, which leaves you in a bad place as a freelancer. Often your proposal won’t even be considered no matter how good it is – just because it gets lost in the sea of other proposals. This is another reason for specialization – the more specific the project scope, the more carefully clients choose.

Contact your previous clients

If you’ve been on Upwork, Elance or oDesk for longer period of time, you probably have a large clientele. Check if your old clients are going to develop some new projects. They would perhaps want you back but they simply forgot about you, which is not uncommon in dynamic business life.

If you succeed in getting a job from an old client, Upwork will shield you from suspension for as long as the contract is running, and for some time afterwards. Since Upwork is very client-aligned, and suspending an active provider’s account will harm their clients’ projects, it is clear that having any active (not paused, suspended or contracts on hold over a longer period) contracts will keep you in the safe zone.

Discover other worlds

Upwork is a great platform and is ahead of many other so-called “general freelance marketplaces”, but it doesn’t mean you should neglect these other platforms. Sign up for Guru, PeoplePerHour, Outsourcely and other platforms which may have fewer clients, but their pricing models are much reasonable than what Upwork would charge you and your clients for the same job with the same budget. Upwork has other downsides besides being expensive: it’s often unstable and slow, which has already driven many clients from it.

If you don’t consider yourself an expert in a field, this strategy will be very good for you, since clients looking for less expertise and less specialized freelancers will be happy to browse some other platforms. Their reason behind sticking to Upwork is fear that on a smaller platform they will not be able to find adequate talent, which is not a problem for those looking for basic skills + they know that their budgets are low and Upwork’s 20% + client side fees would be disappointing for such people.

Consider whether you need a platform at all

If you think you have a success on Upwork, maybe you could do a lot more. Try finding clients outside of any platform and contacting them directly. This usually means you will earn more and sustain less overhead costs. No platform – no fees. To do that you need to find as many potential clients as you can within your niche or field, and write unique pitches to everyone.

Since these are “cold” pitches – meaning they are not actively seeking new talent like those on platforms, and owing to the fact that your competitors can do the same without limits in the form of connects or limited bid slots, your odds to land a single job will be much lower than on-platform – well, at least in the beginning. But once you land a job or two, it would quickly compensate for all your efforts in crafting and delivering your pitches as well as negotiating with those interested.

By combining our two last points, you will grow your freelance business across many markets and that would make you well prepared in a case you earn a suspension on Upwork. If you manage to get enough clients outside Upwork, you will be well off even if you face eventual suspension. And if you keep growing even beyond that, you can quit Upwork permanently.

About Miroslav Milošević

Professional developer of engaging content. Writes in many niches, with a focus on bicycle, outdoor, gadget and market research topics.

Miroslav Milošević

Professional developer of engaging content. Writes in many niches, with a focus on bicycle, outdoor, gadget and market research topics.

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